ISLAMABAD: The halting of Shafqat Hussain’s execution, hours before he was supposed to be hanged at the Karachi Central Jail on Tuesday morning, has stunned all concerned, including the convict’s own counsel, who appeared before the Supreme Court, unsure of whether his client was still alive or not.
Sources in the Presidency told Dawn that they were totally unaware that Shafqat Hussain’s execution had been halted for a fourth time.
A senior Presidency official told Dawn that no summary was sent from the Prime Minister’s Office to this effect nor did President Mamnoon Hussain approve any such order.
Under the Constitution, the power of suspending the hanging of any convict rests solely with the president and he usually takes such decisions on the basis of a summary initiated by the interior ministry and on the advice of the prime minister.
Samina Waqar, the president’s spokesperson, said the president had not issued any orders to postpone the hanging, but claimed that the orders came from Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah after a five-member delegation from the European Union met him in Karachi on Monday. She also questioned how the CM could do so.
“As far as I know, the EU team was of the view that because Shafqat Hussain was not a terrorist, he should not be hanged,” she said.
However, Waqar Mehdi, spokesperson for the Sindh CM, said although the EU delegation had met the CM, no orders for suspending the death penalty were issued by the CM. “Such orders are not issued by the Sindh government, but by the Supreme Court,” he claimed.
The convict had filed a last-ditch petition before the Supreme Court on Monday, challenging the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) order regarding his execution.
The IHC had, on May 21, dismissed a petition calling for the formation of a judicial commission to determine Hussain’s age, terming it un-maintainable. “Nothing has been placed before this court which would indicate any miscarriage of justice or a need for a probe,” Justice Athar Minallah of the IHC had said.
Supreme Court Registrar Tahir Shahbaz said the apex court had not issued any order to postpone the convict’s hanging. “As far as I know, the Supreme Court has not passed any such orders to the jail authorities,” he said.
Despite several attempts, Sindh Inspector General of Jails Nusrat Mangan and Qazi Nazir, the jailer at Karachi Central Jail, could not be reached for comment.
Talking to Dawn, retired Justice Tariq Mehmood said that under the Constitution, only the president could stop the execution of a convict, and that too on the advice of the prime minister.
Nasir Iqbal adds: The Supreme Court will take up Shafqat Hussain’s plea on Wednesday after his counsel verifies that his client had not been executed.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, decided to re-list the petition hurriedly moved by Dr Tariq Hassan on Monday, when the counsel told the court that he had come to court to withdraw his petition for being infructuous, but had read the newspapers that Shafqat Hussain had got another reprieve.
Dr Hassan told the court that he thought the apex court had stayed the execution, but the court explained that it did not issue any orders.
The bench, however, ordered the court office to re-list the petition on Wednesday to provide the counsel an opportunity to re-check and confirm whether Hussain had been hanged or not.
Published in Dawn, June 10th, 2015